Misinterpreting the Intent of the Framers of the Liberian Constitution - Former Secretary General of the Constitutional Advisory Assembly Sets the Record Straight

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

January 21, 2003

Editor's Note: Amidst the dismal failure of his regime and frightened to face the Liberian electorate without fraud or farce, President Taylor went on fishing for way to lessen his own vulnerability at the polls by threatening to invoke the ten year residency clause of the Liberian Constitution. But his attempt at causing chaos and turmoil and throwing the electoral process in disorder went without challenge. The Perspective called his bluff and neutralized Mr. Taylor's contention in its January 17, 2003, Editorial. Responding to the Editorial, Mr. Archie Bernard, Secretary-General of the Constitutional Advisory Assembly, sheds more light on the intent of the framers of the 1984 Liberian Constitution. Below are his views as expressed in an e-mail to the Editor:

I believe that many of the members of who served on the Constitution Commission and those who served on the Constitutional Advisory Assembly are alive and could be asked to reflect on the intent of the ten-year residency requirement in Article 52.

I was privileged to serve as Secretary General of the Constitutional Advisory Assembly during 1984. There were many rather heated debates during the Assembly's deliberations about this residency provision. The members of the Assembly were fully cognizant of the political history of Liberia and the fact that a Liberian citizen, who due to compelling necessity, would live outside of Liberia, either immediately or at sometime prior to a presidential election. In fact, at that time in 1984, we all knew of Liberian citizens, who for one reason or another, were living in exile because of the 1980 coup.

The 10-years residency provision was because of the provision on citizenship in Article 28, which recognized as a natural born citizen of Liberia,..." Any person, at least one of whose parents was a citizen of Liberia at the time of the person's birth,..." This provision gave natural born citizenship status to any person born to a Liberian citizen regardless of his or her place of birth. The Assembly was of the considered opinion that a natural born Liberian citizen must have lived in Liberia at least ten years of his life before contesting for the presidency.

Moreover, the general consensus amongst the members of the Assembly was that the ten-years residency requirement would not bar a natural born Liberian citizen from contesting as a candidate in a presidential election, where said citizen, was living out of Liberia immediately prior to or for sometime before the election.

I am a regular reader of The Perspective online. Please keep up the good work.

Best regards,

Archie Bernard